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Fitting Finale

Seneca Valley’s 400-yard freestyle relay team of, left to right: Daniel Simoes, Gavin Blazer, Kevin Donaldson and Zach Lozowski celebrate winning a state title in the event Thursday at Bucknell University. The effort also clinched the Class 3A state team championship for the Raiders. Submitted Photo
SV boys win 400 free crown, clinch state team title

LEWISBURG — Seneca Valley’s historic season in the water became a truly legendary one Thursday night at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium.

When the Raiders’ quartet of Kevin Donaldson, Gavin Blazer, Zach Lozowski and Daniel Simoes closed the PIAA Class 3A meet with a victory in the 400-yard freestyle relay, it clinched for SV its first-ever boys state team championship in swimming and diving.

The Raiders finished with 188 points, topping La Salle College High School from suburban Philadelphia by 14 points.

Entering the final relay, the Raiders held a six-point lead on La Salle, which placed third in the event behind Seneca Valley and North Penn.

Donaldson got the Raiders off to a strong start in the first 100 yards.

“I was able to get a lead and that was my goal, set the tone for the other guys,” he said.

Blazer and Lozowski maintained that pace for Simoes, the anchor, and SV finished the event in three minutes, 5.37 seconds.

“The guys knew we had to go all-out,” SV coach Brian Blackwell said. “If we would have placed second behind La Salle in the relay, we would have tied them for the team title. We knew we had to win.”

Also earning a medal earlier Thursday for SV were Simoes and Donaldson, who placed third and sixth, respectively, in the 100 freestyle.

Haihan Xu finished fourth in the breaststroke.

The Raiders’ goals evolved over the last few weeks. At first, they aimed to win a WPIAL team championship after falling just 1½ points short in March 2021. They responded by winning their first district title since 1975 in dominant fashion.

“We wanted to win WPIALs first, didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Donaldson. “But after we did, we started looking at the heat sheets for states and knew we had a good chance to win here, too.

“Being part of this tonight is something I’ll always remember,” Donaldson said. “My parents were in the stands, some SV alumni, too.

“All that hard work and all those morning practices when our coaches were pushing us,” he added. “We didn’t want to hear it, but we had to. They told us it would eventually pay off.”

The collective effort stands out for Blazer. After all, this wasn’t just one or two individuals celebrating. It was an entire team.

“The hunger that we have ... the work we all put in during every meet and every practice,” he said. “Everyone got after it and we were able to check off all the boxes this year.”

In the girls diving event, SV senior Ashley Felitsky earned a medal by placing seventh with a score of 375.25.

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